220 B. POLEVOI hospitality; and this landscape, in whole and in part, has been reproduced for posterity in numerous canvases as an example of the mighty and modest grandeur of the Russian scene. This palace now served as a sanatorium of the Soviet Air Force. In peacetime airmen had visited this place with their wives and children. Now, wounded airmen were sent here from hospital to convalesce. Alexei arrived at the place not by the wide, roundabout, birch-lined, asphalted road, but by the track through the wood that led from the station straight to the lake. He approached it from the rear, so to speak, and mingled unnoticed in a large, noisy throng that surrounded two crowded buses standing at the main entrance. From the conversation, farewell greetings and wishes of good luck Alexei gathered that they were saying good- bye to airmen who were leaving the sanatorium for the front. The departing airmen were merry and excited as if they were going not to a place where death lurked behind every cloud, but to their own, peacetime garri- sons. The faces of those who were bidding them good- bye expressed sadness and impatience. Alexei knew that feeling; he himself had been feeling that same irresis- tible attraction ever since the beginning of the gigantic battle that was raging in the South; and it had intensified as the situation on the front developed and became grav- er. And when Stalingrad was mentioned in military circles, quietly and cautiously as yet, this feeling grew into an infinite longing and his enforced idleness at the hospital had become unbearable. Tanned, excited faces looked out of the windows of the smart buses. A short, lame Armenian in striped pyja- mas, with a bald patch on his head, one of the generally recognised wits and voluntary comedians that one always finds in every contingent of convalescents, hobbled and fussed around the buses, waving his stick and shouting his parting greetings: "Fedya! Give my regards to the fascists in the air! Pay them out for not letting you finish your course of moon bath treatment! Fedya! Fedya! Make them feel that it is caddish to prevent Soviet aces from taking their moon baths!"